The Avebury landscape has a large number of outstanding prehistoric monuments, including a henge with the largest stone circle in Britain; Silbury Hill, a huge Neolithic mound; Windmill Hill, a famous Neolithic causewayed enclosure dating from about 2500BC; and West Kennet Long Barrow, a large example of a Neolithic chambered tomb.
Windmill Hill Causewayed Enclosure is the earliest monument we know about in the Avebury landscape. Excavations revealed evidence of feasting. Its use ran from circa 3200BC into the first millenium BC. The subsequent use of the site as a focus for round barrows indicates that it remained significant to later people.
West Kennet Long Barrow dates to around 2800BC. It is of the stone chambered type and is the longest long barrow in England.
The Stone Circles and Henge in Avebury village were built around 2600BC. First to be built were two stone circles which were later enclosed by the massive bank and ditch and the Great Circle on the inner edge of the bank.
To the south east of the main circles is the Sanctuary. This was originally a ring of wooden posts. Two further rings of posts were added some time after this. Later still six larger posts were added. The final phase of prehistoric construction was the replacement of the posts with stones. In the 17th century local people broke these up for use as building materials.
West Kennet and Beckhampton Avenues. Despite Stukeley writing of two avenues at Avebury, for many years only West Kennet Avenue was acknowledged. The West Kennet Avenue links the Stone Circles and the Sanctuary. Its route is marked by two rows of standing sarsens. It is likely that this monument had a ceremonial function. Excavations from 1999 to 2003 have proved the existence of the second, Beckhampton, avenue with an enclosure at its eastern end. It is unclear whether these avenues are contemporary with one another as is indicated by their similar structure or whether they were built piecemeal to link other monuments of different phases. Burial of the stones at these sites occurred in the medieval period as they were regarded centres of superstition.
Silbury Hill, lying to the south of Avebury village is unique within Europe. Excavation has shown it structure has several phases beginning with a turf capped, clay and gravel mound which was built on in stages using chalk dug from the surrounding ditch. Seismic and geophysical surveys in the late twentieth century have revealed that a spiral route up the monument once existed. Silbury Hill was built around 2200BC.
Bronze Age round barrows, used for the interment of the dead, exist in large number around Avebury in large cemeteries, clusters and individually. Many can be seen on Avebury Down, near the Sanctuary and on Windmill Hill. The high number of barrows within the area of the Neolithic monuments, but respecting them, indicates the continued value of this area in the Bronze Age.
Avebury Stones - summer
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